We consider Fragaria vesca ‘Pineapple Crush’ to be the ultimate alpine strawberry in terms of growth characteristics and flavor and aroma. We rank it above all of the red fruiting types and prefer growing it over all other types. Does that sound like a drastic position? I suppose it is. Let’s explore the characteristics.
There are a number of criteria that we use to rank any cultivar when we compare cultivars. They are:
- Plant vigor
- Pineapple Crush plants are vigorous from germination to maturity. It is often the first to germinate and the germination percentages are typically high for new crop seed. The seed even maintains vigor for several years when stored correctly. We have had mature plants that are very productive for up to 5 years. The biggest factor that results in their decline after this period is the amount of organic material left in the soil. As you can imagine, a productive plant is going to be using a lot of nutrients. As time goes on the organic material in the media breaks down until eventually there is little left. The best way to add organic matter is to divide the plants and the cycle goes on.
- An important consideration with alpine strawberries is that they produce few to no runners. This is a huge deal because they are easier to maintain. In addition, this adds to plant vigor because the plants are putting their energies into producing fruit, not runners.
- Alpine strawberries will produce multiple crops per year. We say it this way because not all alpines are day neutral like Pineapple Crush. This means that the plants will continue to bloom irregardless of day length. This characteristic makes this plant especially vigorous. When provided the conditions and nutrients that they needs, this cultivar is vigorous and productive as we will get into now.
- In tests we have conducted over the years we have found Pineapple Crush to be at the top of the cultivar list for productivity. It can compete head-to-head with the best of the reds like Reine des Vallees. Productivity is usually measured in weight of marketable fruit and the number of marketable berries. Individual berry weight is an important characteristic, especially when the plants are grown for fruit that will be sold. A lot of small berries takes time extra time to harvest. We have found that Pineapple Crush berries tend toward the larger sizes if the plants are well cared for. Fruit can weigh up to 3+ grams/berry. With fruit this size it doesn’t take long to fill the containers. And, fruit size can be maintained with proper care and when growing in a protected environment (i.e. high or low tunnel).
- Another aspect of productivity must be mentioned. When I grew fraises des bois in an open field for sale of the fruit, the birds were the most destructive pests. The white fruited cultivars like Pineapple Crush are not as attractive to bids as the red cultivars. This makes a big difference in the number of marketable berries in an area not protected from the birds. Yes, a few birds will peck at the fruit. It’s like they are sampling their next meal. But, the birds don’t carry away massive numbers of white fruit like they will red fruit.
- Fruit Flavor and Aroma
- French chefs might disagree with me but I find Pineapple Crush flavor and aroma to be superior to red fruiting cultivars. I’m not the only one to say this. The Fruit Nut states it as well. It’s very hard to explain this as it is difficult to explain flavor and aroma in words. There are no scientific analyses that I can find specific to this cultivar. I think there is a difference in texture between this cultivar and red fruiting types. When a fully ripe berry of Pineapple Crush is broken open it has a rich almost granular sugar like appearance. Yes, it is soft but intensely flavored. When added on ice cream to temporarily freeze the berry contents and flavors, the texture and flavor is especially noticeable. When harvested at full ripe the fruit gives off a penetrating aroma. We dry fruit in a dehydrator for seed saving. During this process with this cultivar our whole house is filled with a sweet wild strawberry aroma. I have to admit that fully ripe fruit has not only the hint of pineapple flavor that it’s name calls forth but also a hint of vanilla flavor. There are so many flavors and aromas present when one eats even a single berry that it is impossible to characterize.
- Unique Color
- White strawberries are a unique product. We saw that when we were growing Pineberries (white fruiting heirloom hybrids of Fragaria x ananassa). The novelty of a white strawberry was irresistible to consumers. We gave samples of white strawberries to a chef we know. The next time I saw him he couldn’t stop telling about the reactions of his customers to white strawberries. He would put a single berry as a topping for a chocolate mousse dessert. Most customers would ask the server to see the chef when they saw what had been delivered. The chef would come out and urge the customer to taste the berry before complaining. Inevitably, the customer would ask whether they could get additional berries after having tasted the one. At some point the novelty will wear off, but the flavor for many who consume these berries will be unforgettable.
To illustrate some of the points made we offer a video taken recently of plants we are using for seed production.
Seed of authentic Pineapple Crush is not available commercially except through us. We save seeds of this cultivar. Because of the need to isolate the cultivar from other cultivars to maintain purity we have to resort to extraordinary measures. Because of this we have decided to offer seeds as part of a collection called “Fool the Birds” on our seed store. We will not offer plants as plugs because of the cost of producing the seeds. The only plant size we plan to offer is what we call a Quick Start which is a 3.25″ square pot by 3.5″ tall. These plants are well rooted and most are old enough to flower. We offer these year round (shipping may be delayed during extremely cold or extremely hot periods). The more you buy the lower the price.